Climbing a Mountain Taught This Eller Alumna Perseverance

Neha Piratla

Although Neha Piratla ’18 BSBA (MIS and Entrepreneurship) did a lot of hiking while living in Arizona, she didn’t see herself climbing a mountain. But during the pandemic, she underwent surgery. To test her mental and physical strength, she started training with her uncle, a dedicated climber.

After months spent with a mountaineering fitness trainer, Piratla felt ready to climb Mount Baker—a glacier mountain north of Seattle. She encountered a number of difficulties during the three-day climb, including falling in a hole, being in nine-degree weather and surviving on little sleep. But ultimately, she and her uncle survived the adventure. Despite the hardships, the climb made her realize that mental strength can help you do something you never thought you could.

“From there, all of your problems seem so small,” Piratla says, reflecting on the experience. “Everything falls in place if you push yourself.”

The same mindset can be applied to her time at the Eller College of Management. In fact, perseverance is a key part of her advice to current students.

“Eller is hard, deadlines are hard, and a lot of times you don’t understand anything,” she says. “But if you push through and Bear Down, nothing is impossible.”

Originally from Hyderabad, India, Piratla briefly lived in the United States as a child when her parents moved for work. But a little over a year later, she and her family went back to India, where Piratla continued her schooling.

In eleventh grade, she made the decision to pursue her bachelor’s degree in the U.S. Her mother learned about the University of Arizona, and Piratla loved Eller’s Entrepreneurship and MIS programs. So she applied, got accepted and moved to Tucson, despite never having been to Arizona before. Her family also came to the U.S. with her. Piratla’s father took a job in New Jersey, and her mother and sister accompanied him.

The decision to move was sudden for Piratla and her family, and Piratla recalls experiencing culture shock in the U.S. But she soon made friends at the University of Arizona. Being at Eller also helped her hone vital skills.

“We’re always doing presentations, always networking,” she says. “I had to be so open-minded.”

Studying MIS was an excellent opportunity for Piratla to couple her interest in technology with her long-standing passion for business.

A pivotal part of her Eller experience was being accepted to Delta Sigma Pi—the professional business fraternity on campus—during her sophomore year. The organization provided her with a number of networking opportunities.

“From then on, my experience at Eller was completely different,” she says.

Through another member of Delta Sigma Pi who had a job lined up at Texas Instruments, Piratla got in touch with TI about potential openings. During her junior year, she completed a six-month operations internship with the company.

In her final semesters of college, she continued her MIS education and pursued her Entrepreneurship studies. Through the McGuire New Venture Development Program, she and her classmates founded a company called Blare, which makes a safety bracelet for women on college campuses. The bracelet is connected to a user’s phone via Bluetooth. If a user feels in danger, they can use the bracelet to notify their friends, family or law enforcement of their current location. Piratla and her team still own the business, which won numerous competitions at Eller.

After graduation—which she celebrated with numerous family members, including her grandparents and cousins who traveled from India—Piratla took a position at Deloitte. She has also worked at EY, and currently serves as an internal auditor at Salesforce.

In her spare time, she is channeling her entrepreneurial spirit into her own new venture. Based in India, the company is a meal subscription service that offers healthy food options. Piratla is the co-founder and CEO, while her business partner, the COO, is a nutritionist who helps design the meals. The company employs various individuals, including chefs and a manager, and it is available through a local food delivery service.

The startup has been profitable for the last six months, Piratla notes.

While she has gone on to climb Mount Baker and start her own business, Piratla credits part of her successful journey to everything she learned at Eller.

“Eller definitely changed who I am,” she says.